DiNapoli renews push for changes to budget process

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New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said today that he is renewing his push for legislation that would prevent the use of “fiscal gimmicks” in crafting the state budget, even though the recently adopted tax and spending plan avoided those strategies

“The enacted budget avoided much of the fiscal gimmickry of the past to attain budget balance, and it starts to address the long-term implications of the structural imbalance in the state’s finances,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “Now we need to set these important changes in stone. We need long-term solutions that take away the temptation to use short-term fiscal gimmicks that continually push the state’s budget woes to future years.”

The legislation — which includes a bill and a resolution — would:

— Require the governor to include actions for closing out-year budget gaps as part of the state’s Financial Plan.

— Require a binding revenue forecast in developing the budget. Currently, state law requires the governor and Legislature to reach a consensus on revenue by March 1, and the comptroller provides a non-binding forecast by March 5 every year. DiNapoli wants to expand the forecast to include all revenues and resources available and give a more accurate picture of what is available. The forecast would be binding if the executive and lawmakers couldn’t agree on a forecast.

— Increase the state’s reserve funds to “cushion against budget shocks.” Fifty percent of any surplus would have to be paid into the Rainy Day Fund until it reached the maximum level of 5 percent of general fund spending. Currently, the maximum balance is 2 percent of general funding spending.

— Prohibit the use of “one-shot budget gimmicks” to pay for ongoing expenses. They could be used to pay down debt or cover non-recurring expenses only.

— Require joint legislative conference committees to meet publicly to negotiate a budget, and individual lawmakers would have a greater voice in the process.

— Propose a constitutional amendment that would prohibit public authorities from “backdoor borrowing,” require that state debt is issued by the comptroller, place a binding cap on the limit of state debt and make other changes.

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